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Georgian artists deemed traitors for performing in Russia

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, July 1
Nino Katamadze, a prominent Georgian singer, was accused of ‘treason of her homeland’ after performing in Moscow on June 22. Katamadze received backlash for her decision to go on with the scheduled performance despite the unrest in Tbilisi. The protests began after a Russian MP delivered a speech at the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy session at the Parliament of Georgia on June 20.

Katamadze was scheduled to appear at the "Usad'ba" Jazz festival on June 22. After the controversy surrounding the IAO and the subsequent protests, part of the Georgian society expected her to cancel her appearance. Nevertheless, she went through with the decision, for which she became a target of critique on social media.

Alex Dubas, a Russian tv-radio host, posted a video of Katamadze’s performance on his Instagram page. With a caption saying: “She said her heart is in Georgia now. And I said that the hearts of the audience are with her today. That means that their hearts are also in Georgia. In this video you can see how they sing and applaud her. Because we know for sure that the vast majority of you [Georgians] are not Russophobes.”

Katamadze didn’t respond to the accusations until yesterday. She addressed the controversy surrounding her performance in a Facebook post, saying that she stands with those, who protest on Rustaveli avenue.

“My tour schedule is one thing, and then there’s my inner feelings towards my country, the Georgian word, and music,” said the singer.

“I understand the healthy criticism of the society towards me and I share each remark, after this post, I am still ready to hear and read all the opinions, even the ones shared in the most severe forms,” noted Katamdze.

She addressed the people who have been gathering in front of the Parliament for the past weeks, saying “never in my heart has ever been a betrayal of my motherland, I have never sung in Russian, never participated in a government-funded concert (in Russia), never performed at a birthday party of any Russian politician. My music belongs to the people, regardless of nationality, race, religion and sexual orientation!”

According to the singer, this was her “last concert in Russia”. In her post, she also mentioned that the call for resignation of Giorgi Gakharia, the Minister of Interior, is completely legitimate. “Russia is an occupier. Putin is our common enemy!” she wrote.

Anita Rachvelishvili, a Georgian mezzo-soprano, joined the protests in front of the Parliament on June 29, singing a Georgian heroic song ‘HerioBichebo’ and the national anthem of Georgia. Addressing the gathered activists, she asked for forgiveness for performing in Russia.

“I want us to ask for each other’s forgiveness. I want to ask you to forgive me for going to Russia and singing there. Please forgive me for once supporting the party that was destroying and keeps destroying Georgia,” said the mezzo-soprano.

A Russian-Georgian singer SosoPavliashvili, on the other hand, called the protests ‘Satanic’ and the activists ‘Satanists’ for ‘inciting hatred between Russians and Georgians”

“This is Satanism, pure Satanism, when a person speaks of someone badly, just because they don’t look a certain way or speak a certain way. This has nothing to do with humanism, democracy or tolerance. We must not help Satan! The same happened in Ukraine. Who would have thought that Ukrainians and Russians would hate each other! But the time will come when everything will settle down,” said Pavliashvili in an interview with Daily storm.

No matter the position that the artists take, this is not the first time that performers are accused of supporting states that violate human rights and are aggressive towards other countries.

Last year, a famous American singer, Lana Del Rey received similar backlash after announcement that she would be performing in Israel.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (Pacbi) asked the singer to "reconsider" her decision.

"Thousands of artists from around the world have pledged not to perform in Israel until it respects the human rights of Palestinians,” said the Pacbi.

Pacbi is part of the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement, which campaigns for a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians.

Israel says that BDS opposes the country's very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism.

The singer said that “we don't always agree with the politics of the places we play within or even our own country, but we are musicians and we've dedicated our lives to being on the road.”

She later postponed her appearance at the festival until it was possible to “schedule visits for both my Israeli and Palestinian fans, as well as hopefully other countries in the region”.

The festival was being held on a settlement in northern Israel that most Palestinians would not be permitted to attend.

It is common for artists to get criticized for where they choose to perform. Some call it censorship, some call it solidarity for the people. Nevertheless, the fact remains that it is indeed hard to differentiate whether or not the performance supports the political actions of a certain country or it’s just a show for “the people, regardless of nationality, race, religion and sexual orientation”.

During the dispersal of the June 20 rally, 240 citizens were hospitalized, of which 80 were policemen. Two of the injured have lost their eyes, including a 18 year old girl. More than 30 journalists were also injured.

Protests are continuing in front of the Parliament of Georgia to this day, activists demand the resignation of the Minister of Interior Giorgi Gakharia for the actions against the protesters on the night of June 20.